Premier League 2018-19: Rondón and Muto offer Newcastle United's attack versatility
Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez know that the key to Premier League survival and ultimately finding a way to improve upon last season’s finish will be the productivity of the front-line. Goalscoring numbers must be at a higher level, and the Magpies will be expecting their new additions to help pressure the opposition in an effective way.
Newcastle secured the signing of West Brom striker Salomón Rondón on a season-long loan this week, in a deal that saw Dwight Gayle go in the opposite direction (also on-loan). The 28-year-old offers a different skill set than Gayle and may find himself a better overall fit in Benitez’s system.
The other new arrival is Japanese forward Yoshinori Muto, and his ability to play in different positions will be beneficial for the Toon. Benitez has proven himself to be a sharp tactician, able to find the best strategies against superior sides. This has been seen at previous coaching stops as well, not just at St. James’ Park. Part of his ability to do that is found in having various options for his line-up, and he will have that thanks to Muto and Rondón.
With an emphasis placed on wide play providing service to one striker up front, Benitez desperately requires a number nine who can hold up play when needed and bring a physical presence into the final third. There were, of course, hopes that Joselu would be that individual when he signed last summer, but consistency at the position has not allowed that to take place.
Gayle had flashes, but there is reason to believe Rondón will be an ideal selection for the role. Powerful and skilled on the ball, he will be difficult for opposing defenders to deal with both in open play and on free-kicks into the box.
Ayoze Pérez was Newcastle’s leading scorer last season, netting eight Premier League goals. His work as a centre-forward behind the main striker was excellent, and now Muto will be tasked with improving upon that output. The former Mainz attacker has shown an ability to play in different spots, and that will see Benitez craft unique tactics when necessary during the upcoming campaign.
When battling top-four clubs last season, Newcastle were able to keep matches competitive on several occasions, including a thrilling 1-0 home victory versus Manchester United. In order to secure more impressive wins like that, Benitez needs competent work at the back and in the midfield. The hard work in those areas will not produce many scoring opportunities, but the chances will be there. Now, there is a feeling that they can take advantage of those critical openings.
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez may not have received all the reinforcements that they wanted, but what they need for the attack just might be there.